TALLAHASSEE, FL – The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee today voted to pass House Bill 1 (HB 1), otherwise known as Gov. DeSantis’ anti-protest bill. In practice, HB 1 would silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians for exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
Under this bill, peaceful protesters could be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony for “committing a riot” even if they did not engage in any disorderly and violent conduct. It would also prohibit local governments from determining how to allocate funding for police reform to address critical needs in their local communities and seek to protect counter-protesters from civil liability if they injure or kill a protester.
The ACLU of Florida also opposes its companion bill, Senate Bill 484.
Micah Kubic, executive director, ACLU of Florida responded to today’s vote saying:
“Let us speak plainly about what this bill is and what it is not. It is not a measure intended to increase public safety. Law enforcement already has all the tools they need at their disposal to protect public safety and prevent violence and property damage. It is also not intended to address any public need. Protests across the state of Florida have largely been peaceful.
“The sole intent of this bill is to protect white supremacy by silencing and criminalizing Black protesters and allies who exercise their First Amendment rights in the pursuit of racial justice. It is a political stunt that is designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest.
“By increasing the punishment for pulling down a confederate flag and other shrines to white supremacy by 5 to 15 years, and granting violent counter-protestors an escape from civil liability for injuring or killing a protester-- this bill accomplishes nothing but clearly harkens on Florida’s Jim Crow past.
"It is shameful that some legislators are entertaining this bill, instead of prioritizing COVID relief, healthcare, unemployment, and our housing and eviction crisis. Literally, the last thing Floridians need is legislation that criminalizes peaceful protests.”